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Monday, October 2, 2017

17 Months Waiting (AKA The Month We Met Mama E)

This post covers August 30th through September 29th...our 17th month into this process and a very special month :) Please visit our Adoption Page to catch up on our journey!

Thanks again to Lemon Treehouse for our "in waiting" cards

Things Learned and Accomplished This Month:

It was a very, very exciting month for our family! While it's easy to get caught up in the baby news, I had to also make sure to complete our home study stuff too so it could be renewed. I had several people say "Oh yay! You're matched so no home study right?" Nope. Home study has to be current and up to date at the time of placement. I'm not sure if it has to remain current for finalization or not? But either way we should be good with this being our last renewal of the home study! Yay! 


August was a month of major downs followed by MAJOR ups for us. After the first week in August when we had 3 "nos" in a row I was really, really down. And when I'm down? I plan. Zach and I talked and decided to book a trip for Labor Day as a family. We had NO CLUE when our "yes" would come. At that point? We didn't know if it'd be months, or even another year. We felt like it was silly to put our lives on hold waiting and waiting when at that point we were just getting rejected. We discussed it and decided to go away for the weekend to Savannah. We've never been there as a family and thought it'd be a fun place to take the kids at these ages where they're all so flexible and easy going. We didn't know when we'd be getting a baby in our arms so we took it as an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of no baby ;) 

Of course we booked a nonrefundable room for Labor Day and then by the time the trip came we were MATCHED!!! I should have known that booking the trip would be our good luck charm haha When I was pregnant with Kye I went for my 39 week check up and was SO discouraged at my lack of progress. I was so over it and so ready for a baby and just DONE being pregnant. What did I do? I planned a trip. Zach and I discussed going to Jax for a night and I was sitting at the computer booking it when my water broke ;) 

It was a little stressful having dropped the money for the trip knowing we had to come up with SO MUCH money for the adoption. But what do you do? We couldn't cancel the stay and decided to just spend as little as possible on the trip and for the remainder of the month in order to not have the trip cost us above and beyond our regular monthly spending budget. 

We are SO glad we had booked that trip! Y'all. It was an AMAZING, INCREDIBLE weekend as a family. Having our baby excitement and getting to explore a new city together was just magical. It will be a trip that I hold dear to my heart. I know having our last baby will be SO HARD emotionally. I could just keep adding more and more babies to our family forever! But this trip? It will be a reminder to me of the FUN that is to come once Tab is Tess's age now. No diaper bags. Heck, we never even used a stroller! It was easy going and just SO FUN. I'm excited to explore more destinations with our family. Go further from home. Fly. Make more memories. And those are all things that will be big benefits of being done adding babies. Post to come covering our entire trip!



On our way home we talked about everything we will need to do to prep for baby! I'll admit I had a bit of anxiety when reality set in that we will have a BABY in just a couple months! Ahhhh! I'm SO thankful that we prepared a LOT during this stage of waiting. 

Many resources I've read recommend NOT preparing. Don't set up a nursery. Don't stock up on essentials. But I don't roll that way. Even if we DID have to wait a long time for a baby, I'm glad the nursery is done and is a place where we can go and feel excitement. And now that we are matched? It's a HUGE stress relief knowing we'll be able to knock everything out fairly easily before his arrival! 


I don't even know the right word to describe the amount of excitement I have about this baby joining our family. It's such a struggle not having the pregnant belly to show for it! I literally bring it up to EVERYONE I meet. I somehow find a way to work it into conversation that "we're due" in such and such weeks etc. I stop pregnant ladies and ask how far along they are so I can mentally picture what Mama E looks like. I wear my adoption shirts out in public more often so people will bring it up. I basically annoy everyone with our news but I AM JUST SO EXCITED!!! And since I'm a lover of keeping things as "equal as possible" among my kids I also want to make sure that Tab gets just as much attention from random strangers as the ones I carried in my belly did ;) At this point in pregnancy I FOR SURE was showing and FOR SURE was getting lots of fun attention about my bump so I want that as much as possible about Tab's arrival too :) Basically if you see me in public and don't want to get stuck hearing every detail of our adoption then RUN!


I also can't stop buying the baby boy things. I'm SO glad we never found out the sex before because it's impossible not to shop when you know what sex the baby will be! Give me ALL the baby brother things!!! I love getting to hunt clearance (which of course anything I ever buy has to be super cheap) for clothes for him. Have I mentioned I'm JUST SO PUMPED?


I signed up for formula coupons and get weekly emails from them about how far along the baby is in his growth and development and it's really neat to see too. It's such a weird experience not having those sweet baby kicks, the pregnant belly, the physical signs of growing a baby. It's such a weird feeling to think about a total stranger out there who is carrying a child, experiencing all of those things, and who will then entrust us to raise him. Adoption is a beautiful, amazing thing. 


In thinking about all the prep for Tab's arrival, the most stressful thing for me has been thinking about what we'll do after he arrives. From what I've looked into and discussed with others who have walked similar paths we're looking at a possible nicu stay of 5 days up to 4 weeks. ICPC clearance also takes an additional 2 weeks (during which baby and at least one parent must remain in state where birth took place). 

I like to plan for the "worst case." I like to be over prepared rather than under prepared. Zach and I also talked on the drive from Savannah about how we will handle the nicu and ICPC situation. 

It's super super important for Tab that one of us be at the nicu with him at all times. Not only will it help benefit any health issues he may have, but it'll be HUGE for the bonding process. He's not hearing our voices right now. He's not physically attached to me. That bond won't be there at birth the way it is when a baby is delivered. We will have to form those bonds and it's such an important part of the adoption process. Of course he'll also be our baby and DUH we'd WANT to be there with him at all times anyway :) 

Obviously if we didn't have 3 other children and Zach didn't have a full time job that doesn't give any income if you don't work (commission only guys!) we'd both be there together for the duration of Tab's hospital stay. But our reality is that we have to divide and conquer.

We came up with a really great game plan and we're SO thankful that we have Zach's mom as well as other supportive family to help during that time period. Our plan right now is that I will stay during the weekdays in Jax. We're hoping I can get a room at the Ronald McDonald house and/or stay with local area friends. I will be in that hospital all day every day during visiting hours during the week. On Fridays we will switch. Possibly having Zach drive the kids down if they're allowed visits to NICU so they can spend a little quality time too with him and then I take kids home and Zach gets weekends with Tab. Sundays or Mondays we will switch back. 

Of course our prayer is that little or no Nicu stay will even be required! But I feel a lot less stressed about that time period knowing we have a plan in place. As far as ICPC goes ideally I'd really really like to be together as a whole family for as much as possible during that time period. I understand the older kids not hanging out in the Nicu but if I'm in a hotel or a rental house or something for ICPC then I'd like to have all my babies together if at all possible. I plan to speak with their school about excusing absences related to the baby's birth/ICPC and basically wait and see. We're hoping that ideally ICPC falls over Thanksgiving break so we can all be together with no worries about school :) 

Obviously it's all very up in the air but I am just assuming from Halloween till Christmas we could possibly be a Florida family. Praying it's less than that, but I feel confident that our plan will work well for our family if it is a longest case scenario. 

Whenever we are adding a baby to our family we always get our butts in gear about house related projects. It's kinda always good timing: every 3 years ;) We had several things left to do in the nursery and got them mostly knocked out this month! Including shelving for his closet, hanging the curtains, and deciding the few remaining decorating choices! We even got everything down from the attic and just need to put a few items together. 



One of our (I really should say Zach's b/c he does the work ha!) house projects included a LOT of work on the front porch...

And it meant the return of THE BLUE DOOR whoop whoop!


When Irma hit (post to come soon) it gave me the opportunity to organize our freezer space and I made room for breastmilk storage! If you know of anyone who has any they'd be willing to donate we'd be so, so appreciative. I'd LOVE to be able to give him even just one bottle a day of breastmilk. We are big believers in the benefits of breastmilk and want to give Tab the best we can!


Irma also gave the kids several days off school and we took advantage of the time by going to Toys R Us and doing their Christmas wishlist idea "shopping" trip. Britt was a December baby so I had everything bought for Christmas and even WRAPPED before Thanksgiving! With Tab's due date being mid-November it's tricky. I also am such a deals person and SO MANY deals happen closer to Christmas that I don't want to pay higher prices for things now. Plus if we do have a Nicu stay shopping from my phone will be a good time killer when he's napping ;) Zach and I talked it through and he said "looks like I may have to do a lot of wrapping this year" haha! At least he's mentally prepared! 


I also started working on baby registries as my sweet friends are hosting a shower in Tab's honor! I debated doing a shower or waiting until he's here for a "sip and see." I have a good friend who has walked the path of adoption multiple times and has even experienced a failed match (which occurs when the birth parent decides to parent rather than place for adoption). I talked to her a lot about this and she said to go for it with the shower. That the sip and see can be tough if we're in Florida for a long time and that even when we get home we don't know how he'll do with others and it may not be best to be playing "pass the baby" at a shower. She said if the match does end up failing, we'll always have those memories of that shower and that baby and I agree! We can't let fear rule us or steal our joy. I want this baby celebrated just like my other's have always been and I'm SO excited for the shower and to have those pics for his baby book! 

Ideally when looking to be matched with an expectant mother, the further along in their pregnancy the better. For many reasons, but one being that it's a new wait. And while it's very, very different from the waiting to be matched kinda wait, it's got it's tough moments too. I mentioned earlier that it's crazy to think about the baby we'll raise growing inside someone else's stomach. Sometimes that's hard. It's hard that I don't have that control over caring for him. That I literally have no clue what's going on. It's hard not being able to have a say in anything. You worry like crazy while pregnant, but I will say the worrying while not pregnant might be even worse. It is a continuation of this journey of faith and trust. I can see my own spiritual growth because I'm not consumed by worry. I truly do have a lot of peace about it all and just feel that this is the baby God has planned for our family.

I have moments where I worry that Mama E will decide to parent. That something will go amiss in all of this. That the birth father will fight for his rights to parent. But my JOY and EXCITEMENT override all of those concerns. I'm so thankful we trusted God and took this huge step of faith. Because knowing it's HIS plan gives me such peace in a way I never have when I'm the one in the driver's seat (or at least when I think I am! Ha!).

As soon as we were matched the lawyer told us the first step is to meet in person with Mama E as soon as possible. Well. It took a lot longer than any of us would have liked for it to have taken! We had a date set to meet on Sept 11th but then Irma came and we had to reschedule. I was a complete basket case the weekend leading up to our meeting on Sept 19th! I had all kinds of nervous energy and I'm sure Katie and Lindsay loved it at Disney that weekend on our girl's trip (although man it was a perfectly timed distraction for me!).

Leading up to the meeting day "Mama E" and I talked a few times. In what I've read and learned from others it's normal for expectant mothers to be either extremely attached to the adoptive parents: constantly talking, asking for things, even involving them in "drama" but it's also super common for the expectant mother to be more distant. Mama E has been more the distant category. Not in a bad way AT ALL. She's always very sweet whenever we talk, those talks just aren't super often and when they happen they are very quick (which I also understand because she has three little ones running around!) and more "down to business" than chit-chatting or forming deeper bonds. This is normal in these situations as often expectant mothers with an adoption plan deal best by creating as much distance as they can from thinking about the baby. It is it's own mini-emotional rollercoaster for me though b/c I'll hear from her and feel SO GREAT and then go awhile between hearing from her and worry that maybe I said something wrong during our last chat or that she's changed her mind etc. It's a lot of ups and downs which has basically been what this entire process is all about!

I felt a lot of emotions on the day we drove to Jacksonville to meet Mama E! We weren't able to meet with her until later in the day and I had SO MUCH ANXIETY about it. I just wanted to get that initial moment of meeting out of the WAY so I could breathe easier!

Our first stop was to the lawyer's office. The way it works in our situation is that we weren't originally working with this lawyer. Mama E found this lawyer and decided to work with them and then our CAC consultant sent us Mama E's situation via her lawyer. Now that we're matched, they are our lawyer who is representing us in this process. Man did we luck OUT because I've heard NOTHING but AMAZING things about Shorstein and Kelly. Mama E speaks very, very highly of them and other people I've spoken with who have worked with them say they are the best of the best! We are in such good hands and working with people who truly care about Mama E, us, and just the whole process.

Our meeting with them was wonderful. I didn't have any set list of questions or anything going into the meeting. I just wanted to meet face to face and kinda get a feel for things. They told us that they have a 95% placement rate which is very comforting, they said that Mama E has been very easy to work with and has been responsible and committed to the plan she put in place with them. We have felt very good about Mama E's plan to place, but hearing the lawyer who has worked one on one with her say that was a great comfort for us too!

We talked a bit about the birth father and where things are at there. The lawyer thinks they were able to find him so we should be hearing here soon on if we're fully in the clear on that side of things. They made us feel confident that it will be handled soon. Florida is very adoption friendly and in order for a birth father to choose to parent in these situations he has to prove that he's financially able to provide. Most of the time when a birth mother choses an adoption path, the birth father doesn't prevent that plan from being completed.

They also put us at ease about the financial end of things and how the money breakdown works, how Mama E's needs are financially met, etc. All of the funds are put into a trust account and at the end whatever is left over we are given as a refund (of course we're not assuming there will be any left over but wouldn't that be an awesome surprise!). If our match doesn't result in placement ("failed match") they will refund all the funds not used at that point. Which is great as many agencies and lawyers carry it over which puts you in a limited position of having to work with them for the next situation.

They explained to us that when Mama E is roughly a month out from her due date that they will meet with her to decide a hospital plan and that's when we'll know more about what she wants during delivery day etc. At the time of match, Mama E was requesting just photos to be sent to the lawyer's office post placement and that she'll access the photos at her discretion. Now that may change with time and we may have a more open adoption situation with her in the future, but it was neat hearing from the lawyer that they have a warehouse with ALL the photos on file so even if it's YEARS later that Mama E may want them, she'll be able to access them.

When we were first matched we had to send a large chunk of funds within 7 days and then the rest of the amount owed (an even larger chunk) within 30 days. More on that in the financial section below but I figured since we'd be seeing them in person that we'd go ahead and hand deliver the super huge check. We also had some paperwork that is used for ICPC so we got that done and hand delivered that as well. Really the lawyer end of things won't come into play again until Tab is born! They will also handle all the finalization of the adoption (which takes place about 6 months after birth).


After the lawyer meeting we had a LONG LULL of time to fill before Mama E was able to meet with us. We decided to drive over to the hospital where she will be delivering to get a feel for the area and to know what to expect. We assume if she'd like us there at delivery that we'll be in quite a hurry that day so knowing where to go will be helpful! 

It's a beautiful hospital but older and located in a not-so-great area. It did make me feel a little more anxiety about the possible nicu stay and me staying solo. We were able to speak to a few nurses and even visit the NICU floor but weren't able to really do much touring since we didn't have a tour scheduled. Shands is a top ranked NICU hospital so that's comforting and the lawyer told us the hospital now offers a separate room for the adoptive parents on the postpartum floor which will also be awesome! (Mama E later told us it's why she chose to deliver at that hospital, super sweet and thoughtful). 

We spent an hour or so touring around and were a little annoyed at the paying for parking. I'm hopeful that if we do have a longer hospital stay that we'll be issued some sort of card or something because the rates were crazy high! We had to pay $2 just for the hour we were there! 


Next time we're here will be MEETING TAB!!!


We went on a hunt for a light snack since we planned to take Mama E to eat later in the day...but man downtown Jax doesn't have many good food options. We found a Panaera and couldn't believe our luck: it's like right down the street from the Ronald McDonald House! We drove in to kinda check it out and it looks super nice. If I'm able to stay there it'll be super convenient to have one of my favorite restaurants down the block (and a Mexican place is next door to the Panera...I mean meant to be or whhhhhat?).


Water damage around the city from Irma. Lots of roads were shut down due to repairs and the lawyer said "don't forget if you can't see the bottom of a puddle don't drive through it!" ha!


Panera "snack" and killing time!


I swear I felt so anxious and felt like puking ALL DAY


We then thought we'd drive somewhere to do some shopping or something but didn't have much luck there either. I was EXHAUSTED from Disney (I had just gotten back the night prior so I was running  on fumes) so we decided coffee was the way to go. And we managed to find a place after several tries haha it was quite the adventurous day for sure!


We went back to the lawyers office and Mama E met us there. I could hear her before I saw her and when we met we were also able to meet her mom and two of her children. They are beautiful and her mom was super sweet too. It meant a lot to us that Mama E wanted us to meet them! 

We loaded up in Zach's car and went to get some food. We hit up a BBQ place (Mama E's choice) and our visit went REALLY well. Conversation flowed very smoothly and her having little ones and us having little ones made it really easy to have things to talk about. 

I did have a few things I wanted to talk to her about regarding Tab, I was a little nervous to bring them up. But during lunch we talked about his name. Zach and I intentionally didn't choose a full name for him in the event that she'd like an input in that decision. At birth she will be the one to fill out his birth certificate (a new one is issued once he's adoption is finalized...when he's around 6 months old) and often adoptive parents work together with birth parents on deciding a name and the birth parent will put that name on the birth certificate. When I brought the name up to her she was very quick to say she just wants us to name him. Which didn't surprise me as I think her approach to this is distance from thinking about the baby as much as possible. We shared with her the one part of the name we'd decided on and she really liked it, or at least she seemed to ha!

The other thing I did bring up was how far along she was when she delivered her previous babies. It kinda helps give us a rough idea of what to expect and she went to her due date with all of them and they all were on the smaller side. She was very open and comfortable about talking about her babies. She loves them so fiercely and it makes my heart break for her to imagine how difficult this decision must be and how even more difficult it will be when the time comes. 

We talked a bit about that and she was open about how she's nervous. How she's set in her decision and will follow through with it but that she's just scared to see him or hold him. We just let her know these aren't things she has to decide right now and that she's in the driver's seat about what she wants at the time of delivery and that we fully support whatever she wants or needs at that time! 

I'm thankful that I'm a mama already and that Mama E is too. I think we both understand these emotions at a deeper level because we are mothers. We get it. I truly get how impossibly difficult this will be for her. And she knows too because she's held babies before. She's delivered babies. She's raised them. She loves her children. And this decision? It's also a display of the intense love she has for this child. I told her just because she's decided and just because she feels the right thing is to place him with us, doesn't make it less hard and it's okay that it'll be hard. Because y'all it will be! I'm thankful we can be there to support her and that she has such great family support and that the lawyer's have great support for her too. 

We chatted about everything from parenting stories, to pregnancy stories, to music, to football, to Tab's birth father, to her future plans. We all got along very well and I wasn't at ALL nervous once I saw her. She said multiple times that she just knew it was us as soon as she saw us (she said "I told 'em I picked Barbie and Ken" ha!) and we shared with her about how the "nos" we got lead her to us and how thankful we are for this perfect fit! It's neat that she feels just as strongly as we do that this was all very "meant to be." :) 

After lunch/dinner (2:30 is a weird time to eat right?) we headed over to the ultrasound! Mama E offered to have a 4D ultrasound with us there to see Tab in person. Y'all. How awesome is that? It's not something I EVER thought we'd get to experience with this baby!!! 

It worked out nicely because Mama E laid down on a bed for the ultrasound so the tech machine was beside her and then we were on a couch on the other side of the machine. So she couldn't see us and we couldn't see her face. Which I think was really good because I could tell a shift in her comfort level when we arrived at the ultrasound place. I regret not asking for a picture of her and I together prior to leaving the BBQ place, because I just couldn't ask for one at that point and it's something I would love to have for Tab to have. I felt guilty having her there when I could tell she just wasn't very comfortable with it. I'm sure seeing him was hard and just the whole situation is hard! She didn't say anything and was SO great about it all and such a trooper because he was being a stinker and the tech kept having her shift positions even had her jump up and down at one point. 

I'm so thankful Mama E offered to do this for us and with us. I offered her to keep some of the photos but she declined, however she did accept a stuffed animal with his heartbeat in it :) 

It was so neat getting to sit beside Zach to see Tab for the first time! We chatted throughout the experience, making jokes about his positions and such. I did get a little emotional at one point when I just couldn't help but to say "he's just so perfect!" Because y'all he IS.

This type of ultrasound is NOT checking his health but just is more for a keepsake. Mama E should be having that big dr ultrasound soon so we'll have a full update on everything, but everything looks great to us and the tech said his heartbeat was great too! 


I don't know how to read these things? Mama E about died when the tech said her due date is Dec 7th I mean that's three weeks later than they've been telling her this whole time! I kept reminding her that all of her babies have been on the smaller side so surely her due date (11/16) is correct and he's just little? Some of the measurements put her about where we have thought she was and others say she's less far along than she's thought? Has anyone had an experience with the 4d ultrasound being so different from actual due date? 

It def made me less nervous about traveling to Hawaii but a little more nervous about possibly having to spend Christmas in a hotel room! Britt may really get a baby brother for her birthday if this due date is more accurate (Britt's bday is Dec 6th!). 


Ready to see this sweet baby???

He was SO ACTIVE (Mama E said the evenings are his most active time and it was 5ish!) and was hardcore playing with the umbilical cord, even chewing on it. He was moving all over the place and kept putting his hands in front of his face. He def knew what was going on and didn't want us to see him! He sucked his thumb quite a bit (looks like we'll have another finger sucker on our hands!) and even dabbed a few times haha!




So cool to see the individual fingers!






Sucking on his thumb


Since we've never found out the sex of our previous babies this was a BIG first for us and OH MY GOSH I still can't believe how CLEARLY BOY he is!!! He may have been shy about showing his face but he was LOUD AND PROUD about announcing his boyhood ;) 

It was really really cool to see and know for sure that Tab is a BOY!



My favorite. Can't wait to see that sweet face and get allllll the sweet cuddles! (We also did see some fuzzy hair too!)


Mama E was so, so sweet to give us this amazing opportunity. I'm thankful she had offered it rather than us asking because I felt guilt anyway over it! We got a stuffed animal with his heartbeat for her and for us too. We have a lion one from Tess's (she was nicknamed "Leo") and Zach picked a fox for Tab :) I'm pretty much obsessed with it and am SO glad we splurged and got it. I can't carry him in my tummy so I've been sleeping some with the stuffed animal so I can feel close to him ;) 

You can see our past 4d ultrasound experiences here:

So thankful to have had this experience with Tab too!!!

We took Mama E to her home and had a good bit of traffic on the way. I'm thankful because that gave us more time to talk and to help her feel more comfortable again after the ultrasound experience. I could tell the due date change really caused her some anxiety. She has some really great plans in motion that can't really start until after she delivers so she's eager to be moving on to the next stage of things and hearing it may be an additional few weeks was def hard for her to hear. Hopefully it was wrong and her next dr visit will reveal a more realistic due date! I know I'm just as eager as she is and am hoping the original 11/16 was correct! 

Overall it was just a special day. Adoption is one rare opportunity to feel EVERY SINGLE EMOTION at the same time. It's like emotional overload. And that's how the day felt. It was emotionally exhausting but equally exciting too. I felt a large weight off my shoulders on our way home and really feel so much more confidence that this is the perfect fit :)  It was so wonderful to meet Mama E. She'll always be part of our family and meeting her and getting to know her better and on a deeper level only intensified the love I have for her. This journey isn't just about the baby involved, it's an opportunity for us to be a light for Mama E too. We want to be there for her. Not just in the weeks ahead but in the future too. I sent her a long text the next day (I'm just better at expressing emotions in writing) letting her know that we have her back and we're always here for her. I'm so thankful that God put her in our path and that we're able to have this connection with her. 

On the way home we talked about how everything went (totally normal but I overanalyzed and worried if I said too much or not enough or if I didn't express enough how excited we are about the baby b/c I was nervous about talking about the baby too much etc etc) and also had a BIG LONG talk about a name for this child! We went over all the suggestions on the blog FB page and talked about others we had discussed in the past and did a lot of random google searching. We decided on a name but agreed to sleep on it and make sure we still felt the same the next day. And we did ;) 


Since that day it's just been a "pinch myself" sorta feeling. I love having his ultrasound photos as proof that THIS IS HAPPENING! It's real. It's REAL! 

I do think that some pregnancy symptoms aren't just for the pregnant mamas but for the adoptive ones too. When we first were matched I felt an intense desire to protect Mama E and Tab. I am more forgetful and feel more tired and joked with Zach that I'm totally having cravings too (he couldn't get over my excitement for cheese fries the other night haha). I feel anxious and eager and nervous and sad and just all sorts of mixed emotions all the time. I know many people who adopt don't experience pregnancy and many who experience pregnancy don't experience adoption so I like to point out the similarities as there are things that are similar in this experience! 

Financial:

Well. With adoption the financial is all at once. We had to spend some money when we signed on with CAC and more when we did our initial home study. Since then though, there haven't really been a lot of costs (we did have to spend money to renew all the home study stuff and a few of the situations we submitted for required a fee as well).

I'm not sure if it works this way for every situation but in ours as soon as we were matched we owed $10,000 within 7 days. The additional $33,500 was due within 30 days. Whew.

I have had lots of people tell me that it's no ones business how much it's costing. And it's not. But I know so many people go into the adoption process not knowing the costs involved and I think it's important to share the specifics.

In my research early on in the process I thought we'd be spending around $25,000. Our highball figure was $40,000. And that was what we were hoping for the overall cost. As in total from start of process to finalization.  We never thought we'd be spending more than that just on one area of the adoption cost! But what can you do? When we saw Mama E's situation the cost was included. Yes, we had "sticker shock" but it's not her fault that the cost is so high. It's not the baby's fault. It's not even really the fault of the lawyers. It's a flawed system that is just crazy expensive.

We discussed the cost and how it was well above and beyond what we had anticipated but we weren't going to let dollar signs get in the way of our mission. We feel very led to adopt and have let the Lord guide us on all aspects of this journey. I feel like the high cost was another way Satan tried to prevent us from moving forward. Satan knows the financial strain and stress it puts on Zach especially and he tried his best to scare us off with that "sticker shock!"

I'm so thankful for our Dave Ramsey lifestyle. While we didn't have a savings set up for this, and we are having to figure things out to make it all work, our family also won't financially suffer either. Spending smart all these years is truly a blessing and if you've never read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover you really, really should!

Getting the biggest check ever from the bank! I told the teller that I promise I'm not divorcing my husband and gutting all our accounts to go on the run ;) It did surprise me that on a joint account I could withdraw so much at once!


We have said from the beginning that we didn't feel super comfortable with fundraising for this adoption. This is something we feel called and lead to do and is a blessing to our family! We haven't applied for any adoption loans or grants. Loans have very high interest rates and I felt that grants would be taking funds away from other families who may not be able to adopt without those funds. If anything this journey has made me more willing to donate to help others and if we're ever in the financial situation to do so then I'd LOVE to set up our own grant for families who are wanting to adopt. I just always think about couples who spend a fortune doing IVF and then spend another fortune adopting! 

We have done a shirt campaign and a garage sale to help raise funds for our adoption. Our total fundraising efforts were about $3500 which is awesome and a big help!!! We are so appreciative to everyone who purchased a shirt or donated (or shopped!) items to our yard sale. 

When we got matched my friend Kelly told me about a friend of hers who did an awesome fundraiser for their adoption. Zach and I loved the idea and decided we'd copy it. I was hesitate about it since we had agreed on only shirts and yard sale for fundraising, but I also know SO many people want to contribute and I love that this idea is both low cost (shirts weren't cheap) AND is directly to us which I know many people feel more comfortable with.

We expect a high cost for travel expenses which we're just not financially prepared for with all of our savings being gutted (as well as retirement cashed in!) to pay for the cost of adoption. We are hoping to use any funds raised during this fundraiser effort to help recoup some costs and/or cover those travel costs while we'll be traveling to Florida when Tab is born (and while I'm potentially staying down there for possibly several weeks). 

We have designed a really awesome puzzle to go in Tab's nursery! It will hang in a double sided frame on the wall that we will see literally every time we walk into his room. It will be a constant reminder of this leap of faith as well as all the people who have prayed with us, for us, and have helped us bring him home! 

We have ordered a 500 piece puzzle (originally the person we copied the idea from did 1,000 pieces but 500 is easier to put together ha!) and it will serve as Tab's NAME REVEAL!!! 

If you've followed along during any of my pregnancies then you know we NEVER reveal the name prior to birth!!! So this is a pretty big deal to us but we couldn't say no to such a fun project! 

For $7 a piece may be purchased and your name will go on the back of the piece as we put it together. The quicker we "sell" the pieces, the faster his name will be revealed. The more pieces purchased give a larger space to include additional names, messages, Bible verses, etc. 

We are SO excited about this and our kids will also find out the name when the puzzle is put together! I'm eager for it to arrive as to date we've already had 53 pieces purchased!

If you'd like to purchase any pieces you can do so here: https://www.paypal.me/teamparkeradopts

If you'd rather send funds directly to me (if you're not comfortable with PayPal) please let me know: journeyofphood@gmail.com 

If you purchase more than one piece be sure to leave a "note" with what you'd like your pieces to say! I've seen where people who do this fundraiser paint the back of the puzzle white and use a sharpie to do all the names and messages and I LOVE how the final products turn out. 

This is a NO PRESSURE situation. Just a fun, creative, and memorable way to allow anyone who'd like to participate to do so! While it'd be amazing to "sell" all 500 pieces and would be a big financial blessing to our family, we don't expect that nor are we pushing anyone to contribute. We appreciate ALL the prayers throughout this journey and love that we'll have a physical way to show Tab just how many people have helped us and encouraged us along the way :) 

Here's a sneak peak of what the completed puzzle will look like (his full name going in place of "sweet baby parker" obviously!). 

Encouragement:

Our time of waiting was not always easy but it was made easier by sharing that wait with others who were going through similar seasons of waiting. It's SO awesome that Lindsay and I are both now in a different phase of waiting as we wait for our babies to be in our arms :) Lindsay and I went to a celebration breakfast to celebrate our babies on the way! She's due in March and I'm SO THRILLED for Baby Colson #3!!! 


I did a second round of shirts and it will most likely be the last round so I hope everyone that got one was able to order! I've LOVED seeing so many friends rock their shirts in honor of our "we're matched" news!!! Yes Robyn I screenshot your IG Story so I could share ;) 


It's been so incredible to receive the outpouring of love and congratulations and it's encouraged ME to be sure to do the same for others. I mean how awesome is this??? A sweet blog friend (turned IG friend turned blanket gifter turned sheet recipient haha) sent me this in the mail. She printed off the definition of adoption as well as words related to it and circled them. She also put a photo of Mickey with the page and hung it in her office as a physical reminder to pray specifically for our family and Tab. I mean SO SWEET right??? She sent it to me and it's something I truly cherish having!


We also received such thoughtful gifts from friends too! Rachael sent our whole crew a little something along with a special book for Tab that I LOVE! (I Prayed For You) Tess has tried to claim it as her own so I had to put it up in the nursery out of her reach ;) And the devo she got for Kye is awesome. It's called May The Faith Be With You!



Then friends of ours (The Abbott family) dropped by this ADORABLE onesie with the sweetest note about how their family has been praying for us through this process. I love love love it and especially love how TINY it is! So pumped for an itty bitty baby to wear it!


I know there is a chance of a "failed match." It's a risk in any adoption situation. But I feel SO encouraged every single time I have any interaction with Mama E. After our visit with her I sent her a long text just letting her know how wonderful it was to meet her and how we're always here for her etc. She called me for the first time just the past week (up until then I've been the one reaching out to her) and we had THE BEST talk. We both got emotional! She said that she feels the most confident about her decision whenever she talks to me and that she feels so much that it's all just meant to be. She talked about how difficult the drs visits are for her because even though she's sure of her decision to place, it's hard facing that reality. She asked me if I'd like to come to appointments with her which DUH is a HUGE YES from me! 

I get almost giddy with emotion every time we speak and it made me feel so good that she said she feels great too each time. It's like special bond and connection we already share. I am so thankful that she's who we are matched with. I'm so thankful for all the "nos" that lead us to HER. I think up until getting matched it's all about the baby. But now? I feel so much love in my heart for his mama. Zach and I both are truly invested in her, her wellbeing, her other children, her life and longterm plans. This isn't just about us or our little family or Tab entering our family. It's about her too. And I'm excited to form a deeper bond with her and to add her (in whatever way ends up being best for us all) as part of our family as well. 

Goals For This Month:
  • Post in breastmilk groups in hope of collecting enough milk for one bottle a day for Tab!
  • Get hospital bag packed and ready
  • Enjoy our last trip as a family of 5 as well as our hubby/wife getaway thanks to Aflac!
  • Finish up nursery 
  • Knock out "before baby comes" list of things to do!
  • Get all baby items put together!
How You Can Help:
  • If you have any breastmilk you'd be willing to donate (even if we need to pay for shipping) please contact me at journeyofphood@gmail.com. Our goal is a bottle a day for Tab for as long as we possibly can!
  • If you live in or near the Jacksonville area and wouldn't mind me bumming some sleep at your place please let me know ;) I have a few sweet friends who have offered already! I def am nervous about my solo time down there
  • If you have any Florida connections anywhere for an affordable place for our family to stay during ICPC that'd be wonderful too!
  • If you've ever thought about guest blogging on my blog then now is a GREAT time to be featured! I'm looking for guest bloggers so I can share content when Tab is born! Please let me know at journeyofphood@gmail.com
Prayer Requests:
  • Continue to pray regarding the birth father situation, hoping my next update will be that it's handled and no longer a concern on the table!
  • Pray for Mama E and for my ability to attend upcoming appointments with her! So far she's had one visit where they just did labs (we're thankful for my ob for looking over these records as we receive them...so far everything looks good). I'm eager for her big ultrasound appointment and hope that I'm able to be there with her AND that we hear nothing but good news on how Tab is doing! 
  • Pray also for Mama E and her emotions. This is a hard journey for her. She needs our prayers throughout but especially at time of delivery and the follow days of recovery. Pray for her and that we can continually be there for her. Pray for her relationship with the Lord and for her other children as well!
  • Pray for Tab and his health and for a limited, or no, NICU stay being needed as well as a smooth transition for him into our family :) 
As always, thank you! Thank you for always being supportive of us and keeping our family in your prayers!

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